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The Background Story

From Ken Pringle. For those of you who didn’t live through it.

The sole issue on this appeal was the Borough’s challenge to the award of legal fees and costs that Superior Court Judge Katie A. Gummer awarded to the Plaintiffs following their successful suit compelling the Borough to comply with a referendum petition submitted by Belmar voters pursuant to the Faulkner Act, and to hold a special referendum election on Ordinance 2016-01.

This Ordinance, which was drafted in 2015 and introduced on January 7, 2016 at Doherty’s direction, would have substantially weakened Belmar’s anti-pay-to-play ordinances, which my administration had adopted in the 2004 and 2005 in the wake of the FBI’s earliest arrests in what became known as Operation Bid Rig.  These provisions effectively prevent Belmar’s local officials and candidates from accepting campaign contributions from developers, liquor license owners and vendors, including Belmar’s professional appointees, or from “pass-through” sources, which are PACs, campaign accounts, and state, county and local campaign organizations where the source of the funds cannot be easily traced.

Among the provisions Ordinance No. 2016-01, which became known locally as “Matt’s Law,” would have eliminated were those restrictions that applied to Borough officials who ran for office outside of Belmar.  Doherty repeatedly denied that the Ordinance had anything to do with his campaign (even through the Ordinance was introduced on January 7, 2016, the same day the County Democrats announced on their Facebook page that Doherty was running for County Freeholder).   Instead, Doherty claimed that he introduced Ordinance 2016-01 to make it easier for Republicans in Belmar to raise campaign funds.   Not surprisingly, Ordinance No. 2016-01 became known as “Matt’s Law.”

After local residents, myself included, formed a Committee of Petitioners to circulate a Faulkner Act referendum petition that would have forced the Borough to either withdraw Matt’s Law or place it on the ballot, Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly hurriedly engaged the politically connected Scarinci Law Firm to draft a 3-page “opinion letter” that set forth a series of reasons why various provisions of Belmar’s anti-Pay-to-Play ordinances were unconstitutional.   The Scarinci firm had obviously not been involved in drafting the proposed new ordinance because it contained some of the same provisions that the “opinion letter” said were unconstitutional.

My law firm quickly brought an emergent action before Judge Gummer to obtain an Order to Show Cause enjoining Ordinance 2016-01 from taking effect, and after the exchange of numerous briefs over the next several months, won a motion for summary judgment that compelled the  Borough to hold a referendum on the Ordinance at a special election on September 27, 2016.   Because Doherty obviously did not want this referendum to be held before the November general election, because of the negative publicity it would generate for him, Connolly authorized the Scarinci firm to bring an emergent appeal before the Appellate Division, which we opposed.   A two-judge panel soundly rejected the appeal a few days later in a very brief opinion.

At the September 27, 2016 special election, voters overwhelmingly rejected Matt’s Law by a margin of 829-292.

Judge Gummer later ruled that by rejecting the Committee of Petitioner’s valid referendum petition, the Borough had violated Plaintiffs’ right of referendum under the Civil Rights Act, and was therefore liable for the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs.

My law firm submitted a fee application for approximately $89,000 in fees.  Judge Gummer awarded nearly that entire amount, as well as a 40% enhancement of that fee due to the emergent nature of the matter, the nature and quality of the work we undertook, and the speed with which we disposed of the Boroughs’ arguments.   The trial court also awarded us an additional fee of $9,656.15, for the services we rendered in opposing the Borough’s emergent appeal to the Appellate Division.  In total,  Judge Gummer awarded PQA a combined fee award of $131,864.15 and $914.12 in costs.

In its appeal, the Borough raised every conceivable basis for challenging this fee award in its entirety or for seeking a reduction in the amount of the award.  The Appellate Division, in a 32-page per curiam opinion,* rejected  each and every one of the Borough’s arguments.

So, at the end of the day, Ordinance No. 2016-01 never took effect.  Not even for even a single day.   Doherty had to recuse himself from a broad range of matters because he accepted Freeholder campaign contributions that violated Belmar’s original anti-pay-to-play laws.  And for all of his efforts, he was humiliated in the November 2016 Freeholder election by more than 20,000 votes, and barely out-polled his running mate, who had never held office before.   Belmar taxpayers had to pay the Scarinci firm’s legal fees in this matter, which were at least $50,000, not counting its fees for appealing our fee award to the Appellate Division.  Add to that the approximately $20,000 cost of the special election, and now $131,864.15 for my firm’s fees, not counting the additional fee application we will be making for having to defend this appeal, and the total cost to Belmar taxpayers of this travesty will exceed $250,000.

All because Matt Doherty wanted to make it easier to raise money for his Freeholder campaign.  And not once during this entire shameful chapter in Belmar history did a single one of the Democrats on the Borough Council ever once publicly question why the Borough was defending Ordinance No. 2016-01.

*/  “Per curiam” is Latin legal term meaning “by the court” or “by the court as a whole,” as opposed to most written decisions which are authored by a specific judge.  Per curiam opinions are typically issued in matters that are considered not to be controversial.


Just reading this makes me mad all over again.


  1. Joan Corallo wrote:

    I agree. Makes you mad all over again that the residents of Belmar had to deal with all this crap and expense because Mr Doherty thought he was king. Thank You again Kenny and the plaintiffs for your actions on our behalf.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  2. Guest wrote:

    It is disgusting how the Mayor and Council members abused the public trust and wasted hard earned money of the Belmar taxpayers.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  3. Guest wrote:

    …. and Walsifer appointed Tom Brennan as Council President? Really Walsifer??

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  4. Summer Timer wrote:

    Thank you Mr.Pringle for all you do for the community….

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Focus your wrath toward Doherty, Blackburn, Brennan, Diecke, Nicolay, Inn at the Shore,j. Brennan, Dombroski Murray, Grosshandler, Read, papi, Bontempo, Rubin, Collins, Kaye, Keller, Wische, Gallo, Spennrath, weidel, Drs group of nj, gerard, Cinelli, Druz, Romanzo, Masi, windas, Aschoff, Giambrone, blanchard, furey, mcmenemy, wilton, Destoppelairs, Cory, Wolf, and Hutchinson.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  6. admin wrote:

    Don’t forget Tom Burke

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Focus your wrath at Doherty, Diecke, Nicolay, Brennan, McGovern, Keown-Blackburn, Levis, Hutchinson, Wolf Cory, Destroppelaire, Wilton, McMenemy, Furey, Blanchard, Giambrone, Aschoff, Windas, Masi, Romanzo, Druz, Cinelli, Drs group of nj, Gerard, Fitzgerald, Weidel, Spennrath, Gallo, Wische, Keller, Kaye, Murray, Collins, Bontempo, Papi, Read and Luddeke.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  8. ANONYMOUS wrote:

    # 7 ummmm, and Tom Carvelli?

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  9. Genius wrote:

    #3 I agree with you about Brennan. When I first heard about this I was pissed. Brennan was a puppet for Doherty and a dope. But like him or not he remains on the council with Mark Walsifer and the republicans. Mark is smart. He could of had a council full of strife, turmoil and divisiveness. Instead, he made Brennan council president and Brennan is happy as a lark and regularly agrees with the mayor and council.
    Im sure you’ve heard the expression, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
    In hindsight, this was smart move.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  10. Duh! wrote:

    5 – Don’t forget about Dopey McGovern.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    I wonder if this could be put into Matt Doherty’s employee file with the State? It would be an interesting contrast to whatever someone put on his resume for past experience and/or skills.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 6:52 pm | Permalink
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Mark, no no, I’m mean #9, I agree that allowing Brennen to be council president was a smart move because I understand how smart you are and that makes total sense to me now.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  13. OLD MAN wrote:

    Thankfully I have an ample supply of aspirins after reading this …Now I use Pepto Bismol also to off set the side effects of aspirin.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Doherty was and still is a shill. He’ll be burned out after tumbles in AC.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  15. anon wrote:

    Ken was and is exactly right on this particular travesty.And think about it, at least 250k wasted not to mention the final tally on Salt and all the other lawsuits generated by the actions of the Mayor. You want to know why we are in heavy debt as a boro and why we will be paying far more in taxes than should have been necessary just start adding up all the fiascos like this one brought to us courtesy of Mr Doherty and his minions. While he moves on to a sinecure in AC provided by his buddies. And some people ask why politicians are held in low regard by most people.
    But at least we will not have to deal with those odious plastic bags around here.

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    Send it all to Asbury Park Press and to Bill Spadea at NJ 101.5 FM. Let’s see it become Statewide news and then let Gov. Murphy and Brian Wilton stand up for Matt and explain. Maybe a resignation will be demanded?

    Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 11:31 pm | Permalink
  17. OLD MAN wrote:

    #16 Never happen

    Friday, April 26, 2019 at 5:06 am | Permalink
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    spadea is aware of no cojunes.

    Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  19. Tom Dilberger wrote:

    #16 – The controlled media of this state will never allow what happened here to be published or sent over the airways to the citizens of the state. Even if it did become common knowledge, it wouldn’t effect the general liberal/socialist/communist ideas of the people in general.

    Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    The Toms Toms are sounding all over the State of NJ. How foolish the “Media” is now represented. Gone are the days of reading 5 newspapers a day.

    Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  21. flower power wrote:

    Letters to the Editor, folks. Some people still read.

    Old fashioned demonstrations can bring attention. Remember the one in front of Doherty the Loser’s house when he held a fundraiser there?

    Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  22. Anonymous wrote:

    Time to gather for a cup of coffee on Inlet Terr. I’m in.

    Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  23. flower power wrote:

    An Anti-Corruption march through the streets with stops and speeches in front of the houses of Magovern, Nicolay, Brennan, Doherty, with a rally in Pyanoe Plaza. Or at Taylor Pavilion.

    Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  24. Tom Dilberger wrote:

    #23 – I’m absolutely against this. Nicolay and Doherty have children and they shouldn’t see their parents abused like that. As for Brennan and Magovern, they’re just two dummies. It’d be like kicking a puppy. They all hurt us but they’re out of office – let it go.

    Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  25. flower power wrote:

    Don’t worry, Tom, that would not happen here, as protecting children from the truth is too warm and fuzzy than being realistic and preparing them for the downside of real life. They will learn eventually. (Of course I believe that could be form of abuse, but we won’t go there.) I’ll just skip along and kick some rocks. Must build good karma. Peace.

    Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    24-Thank you Tom! Children should always been considered first.

    Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

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